For the first time in nearly a month, North America’s most popular movie won’t be about motorcycles. Warner Bros. goes back in time 2,500 years for the epic war saga "300" which aims to conquer the box office with ease.
Other studios have conceded the frame to the effects-driven actioner as the only other film opening wide is the family drama "The Ultimate Gift" which will cater to a non-violent crowd that prefers to keep decapitations to a minimum in their weekend entertainment.
Two and a half years after running the historical epic genre into the ground with "Alexander," Warner Bros. is back to breathe new life into the industry with "300." The R-rated war film stars Gerard Butler as the Greek king who in 480 B.C. led his small battalion of brave soldiers in battle against the mighty Persian army. Directed by Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead"), "300" is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and features stylized action sequences and a visual look unlike the endless line of epics that hit multiplexes a few years ago.
Warner Bros. got the ball rolling early last fall with exciting trailers that really energized the target audience of male action fans who now will be very satisfied by the amount of blood, gore, and female nudity in the picture. Momentum has been building ever since and today, "300" is an event film for many. The film lacks a marquee star but that should not matter much. The unique look and feel should compensate for that as moviegoers will find the film to be worth paying top dollar for to see on the big screen. This is not one to wait for on DVD. And unlike other epics, this one keeps it just under two hours which will allow theaters to offer enough showtimes per day. The marketplace is ready for "300." Aside from "Ghost Rider" which is going into its fourth lap, there will be little direct competition for "300" to face so King Leonidas and his men should prevail in this battle.
Other effects-driven R-rated action films have found success recently in the spring months. In 2005, Keanu Reeves‘ "Constantine" bowed to $29.8M and "Sin City" opened to $29.1M while last March "V for Vendetta" debuted with $25.6M. All three films ended in the $70-76M range. "300" looks like it has the strength to go higher. The marketing has been brilliant, competition is weak, and excitement is high. Warner Bros. will score its first number one opener of the year with "300" which invades 3,103 theaters, including Imax venues which will add a few extra bucks. A Friday-to-Sunday gross of about $38M could result.
Fox Faith, the new wing of Twentieth Century Fox dedicated to films with uplifting religious themes, rolls out its family drama "The Ultimate Gift" starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin who comes straight from her high profile Oscar nomination for "Little Miss Sunshine." Based on the best-selling book, the PG-rated film tells the story of a young man who instead of getting his expected inheritance after the death of his wealthy grandfather, is given a series of challenges to help him build character and learn what is truly important in life. Grassroots marketing is being used to court the faith-based audience and a dollar from every ticket sold will be donated to one of a number of different charities. Still, the film is not being given a marketing blitz so large numbers are not expected. Opening in over 800 theaters, "The Ultimate Gift" may gross about $3M this weekend.
After opening almost everywhere else in the world, the hit Korean horror film "The Host" makes its ways to American shores through Magnolia Pictures this weekend. The R-rated creature feature debuts in about 70 theaters and has been garnering impressive reviews since its premiere last May at the Cannes Film Festival. Fox Searchlight platforms its family saga "The Namesake" from director Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding," "Vanity Fair") in six theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto. Starring Kal Penn, the PG-13 film about the struggles of an Indian-American family will expand weekly throughout the rest of the month.
After three weeks of motorcycle flicks ruling the box office, a stylized trip back in time with "300" will come as a welcome change of pace. "Wild Hogs," which powered its way to a surprisingly potent $39.7M bow last weekend, will drop out of pole position. With little direct competition, look for a reasonable dip in sales. The Buena Vista release has been a crowdpleaser and will remain the top choice for moviegoers in the mood for a laugh or anything with big Hollywood stars. A 35% decline could result giving "Hogs" a weekend tally of around $26M and a ten-day cume of $74M.
Paramount’s serial killer pic "Zodiac" got off to a moderate start last weekend and will have another R-rated film aimed at adults to deal with. A drop of 40% may occur putting the murder mystery at $8M for a total of only $25M after ten days. Sony’s "Ghost Rider" will become the first member of the 2007 century club and should fall 45% to $6M for a $103M cume. The Nicolas Cage pic is set to take a serious hit thanks to 300.
LAST YEAR: The Matthew McConaughey–Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy "Failure to Launch" debuted at number one leading a new crop of films with $24.4M. The Paramount release found its way to $88.7M. Opening in second place was the Tim Allen kidpic "The Shaggy Dog" with $16.3M followed closely by the new horror flick "The Hills Have Eyes" with $15.7M. Final grosses reached $61.1M and $41.8M, respectively. The Bruce Willis actioner "16 Blocks" dropped to fourth with $7.4M. After two weeks at the top of the charts, the Tyler Perry comedy "Madea’s Family Reunion" tumbled from first to fifth with $5.7M.
Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com